The S.C. Department of Natural Resources called this past duck season “excellent” based on harvest figures from WMAs across the state, with Hickory Top Greentree Reservoir in Clarendon County and Bear Island WMA in Colleton County leading the way.
SCDNR said that hunters on public hands killed a total of 5,079 ducks, an average of 1.7 birds per hunter, per hunt. More than 3,000 hunters participated in 170 hunts on 19 WMAs where individual hunt data was recorded. Wood ducks accounted for 34 percent of the total harvest, followed by gadwall, shoveler, green-winged teal and widgeon.
"Overall the season for our waterfowl areas was excellent, given the variable weather we had this winter" said Dean Harrigal, waterfowl program coordinator for SCDNR.
Hickory Top Greentree Reservoir had the highest hunter participation and harvest with 1,018 hunters reporting a harvest of 1,512 birds, the vast majority of them wood ducks.
On Category I Wildlife Management Areas (lottery hunts), 868 hunters harvested 2,882 birds with an average of 3.3 birds per hunter. Gadwall, Northern shoveler, American green-winged teal, and pintail were top birds in the bag.
Bear Island WMA in Colleton County had the highest hunter average with 4.0 birds per hunter, followed by Santee Delta in Georgetown County with 3.6 birds per hunter, Santee Coastal Reserve in Charleston and Georgetown Counties with 3.0 birds per hunter, and Samworth in Georgetown County with 2.5 birds per hunter.
"Several years ago Tommy Strange (a retired SCDNR biologist) said that gadwall were the duck of the future for South Carolina, and given the number harvested on our WMAs this year, it looks like the future is now, " said Harrigal.
Top individual hunt units were Springfield/The Cut of Bear Island (4.5 birds per hunter), Bear Island East (3.8), Santee Delta East (3.7), Murphy Island of Santee Coastal Reserve (3.6) and Bear Island West (3.6).
Hunt data was collected on nine of the 25 Category II WMAs, which are open to the public on specific days. Hunters reported a harvest of 1,941 birds on these areas, the vast majority coming from Hickory Top Greentree Reservoir. The average for 2,100 hunters was .92 birds per hunter. Wood ducks accounted for more than 89 percent of the bag.
A total of 28 special youth-only hunts were held on select areas. The reported harvest was 256 birds by 117 hunters for an average of 2.1 birds per hunter. American green-winged teal, Gadwall, and Northern Shoveler were the top birds in the bag.
"We were especially pleased that our youth-oriented hunts provided quality waterfowl hunting opportunities for young men and women during the season," Harrigal said.